The puppets and puppetmasters behind the Olympics 2032 and how your $5 billion will be spent


Ensuring independence from the process of appointing a crucial five-person bloc on the proposed Olympics organising committee is at the heart of disagreements between Queensland and Commonwealth governments that have slowed new laws governing the 2032 Games.

The ABC has obtained documents including draft legislation being negotiated which sets out these laws as more information emerges over the $5 billion Olympics program, including reports of an early cost blowout.

Politicians and bureaucrats are locked in discussions right now over the Olympic and Paralympic Games Arrangements Bill 2021.

Much of the discussion centres on whether the bill matches an agreement struck between the Queensland and Commonwealth governments over a 50-50 share in funding and responsibilities.

Federal Sport Minister Richard Colbeck has told the ABC there had been previous agreement between the parties and talks over the legislation are underway.

“Part of the current discussions is to ensure this agreement between the governments is clearly legislated,” he said.

Amid tensions between the parties, a spokesman for Queensland Premier and Olympics Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk said “there can be no comment on the contents of the legislation until it’s introduced”.

The legislation was reportedly being readied for introduction to the Queensland parliament last week, but ongoing negotiations have pushed it back to next week at the earliest.

And now the ABC understands a meeting scheduled for today has been postponed.

Here’s why these negotiations are so important.

What will the new laws do?

Brisbane won the right to host the 2032 Olympics in July, not long after a partnership agreement was struck between the Queensland and Commonwealth governments to share half the costs each.

The 2018 Gold Coast and 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games as well as Sydney 2000 all had organising bodies established by state governments that had responsibility for delivering the events.

Annastacia Palaszczuk looks into the distance wearing a blue top
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is the state’s Olympics Minister.(ABC News)

These laws being negotiated establish the organising committee for 2032, almost certain to be called “BOCOG” but formally the Brisbane Organising Committee for the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The body will be set up to operate at arm’s length from the government and will be the entity that formally signs the Olympic host contract and organises the Games.

Its responsibilities will include accommodation, transport, venues, the sports program, ticketing, volunteers, marketing and broadcasting

In short, it’s powerful.

But what makes the 2032 Games different to Gold Coast 2018, Melbourne 2006 or Sydney 2000, is the partnership between the Queensland and Commonwealth.

So who really wields the power?

A document circulated last month sets out the agreement over how the organising committee will be formed.

The Queensland Premier will nominate four members and the Prime Minister will do the same.

But the five proposed independent directors, one of which will be the president, looms as the critical voting bloc that could determine whether the state or federal government gets its way.

The draft bill requires the Olympics Minister —  currently Annastacia Palaszczuk —  to nominate the five independent directors, with the Prime Minister to provide written consent for each of them.

The role of the president — one of these five independent members — is set to be determined following a search by recruiting firms, though the legislation is silent on the process.

And it’s not clear whether recruiting firms will also influence the appointment of the remaining four.

At least one Indigenous member among this group of five will be appointed, but the document shared appears to suggest they will not be president.

A chart showing the proposed makeup of the board.
This summary was circulated among the Brisbane Olympic partners in September.

There’s less controversy about the remaining positions.

Australian Olympic Committee chief executive Matt Carroll will join the board as will AOC president John Coates. Coates is currently also the International Olympic Committee member from Australia, a position which will win a spot when Coates no longer wears both hats.

The Brisbane Lord Mayor, currently Adrian Schrinner, also has a seat, along with someone he nominates.

Three-time Olympian Bronte Barratt has already been elected by her peers as the Olympic athlete voice, but she will step down and be replaced in 2024 due to rules that limit athletes’ tenures to eight years from their last Olympic appearance. In Barratt’s case, that was Rio 2016.

Australia's women's 4x200m freestyle relay team gets silver
Bronte Barratt (third from left) and the rest of the silver medal winning 4x200m freestyle relay team in 2016.(AP: Michael Sohn)

The Paralympics representative will be decided on Tuesday at a meeting of the Paralympics Athletes Commission.

Joining this group on the board will be Paralympics Australia president Jock O’Callaghan and, if one is elected, an Australian board member of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

Chief executive of Sport Inclusion Australia, Robyn Smith, is one of 25 candidates applying for 10 positions at the IPC general assembly in Taiwan in December.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Prime Minister Scott Morrison will both nominate four people for the committee.(ABC/AAP)

According to the draft bill, directors can be appointed for a maximum term of four years, but can also be reappointed.

The legislation notes when a party loses control of power at either state or federal level, committee members who are MPs will immediately be removed — including the Premier or Prime Minister — to allow the new government to appoint its own nominees without delay.

The Olympics Minister will also be able to force the organisation to act in a certain way or provide documents under written directions.

How much will the Games cost taxpayers?

According to the submission made to the IOC in April, the budget for the Games was $4.9 billion, which included $690 million for infrastructure and an $810 million contingency.

The Queensland government has announced a $1 billion rebuild of the Gabba, even though the International Olympic Committee wanted bidders for 2032 to look at reducing venue and optimise existing infrastructure.

Earlier this week, Sport Minister Richard Colbeck suggested that budget is already out of date.

“It’ll probably be a bit more than five [billion dollars], given the infrastructure for transport and the infrastructure for the Games,” he told radio station 4BC.

“The Gabba announcement was a bit of a surprise to a lot of us, but that’s what’s promoted the process that we’ve put in place now, the agreement between the Prime Minister and the Premier with respect to 50/50 founding of the Games’ infrastructure.”

Infrastructure rolled out in Queensland over the next decade in preparation for the Games will add considerably to the total.

But the partnership between Queensland and the Commonwealth covers not only venues and costs of running the Olympics but also critical infrastructure.

The Games aren’t until 2032, what’s the rush?

The Brisbane bid promised the IOC it would establish both an organising committee and coordination authority within five months of winning hosting rights in July.

Within six months, a Legacy Stimulus Fund mechanism is to be finalised.

Within 12 months, an initial report monitoring progress must be delivered, and strategic plans must be updated.


“The first three of four years is planning, putting in place the structures for an organising committee that will grow to about 3,000 people, plus 70,000 volunteers,” John Coates set out the most pressing jobs in his National Press Club address last week.

“Within the first six months of being elected we have to present a plan to the IOC on marketing, we also have to do one to the IOC on sustainability and the environmental commitments we’ve made as part of the bid — zero net emissions, zero waste — all of those things they’ll hold us accountable to.”


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